Recovery straps can be used all year long, but they're especially handy in the winter months when roadsides become flooded with spun-out vehicles.
The best way to get a car out of snow quickly (without the cost of a professional tow truck) is by rigging a recovery strap to a tow hook or recovery point on the vehicle and slowly dragging it out. Between the type of vehicle, weather conditions, and distance from the roadway, there are many variables that make each vehicle recovery situation different.
Use the steps below as a general guideline for how to pull a car out of the snow, but know your limits and never push the capabilities of your vehicle or yourself.
1. Make yourself visible to others
If you're recovering a vehicle that's near a roadway, take precautions seriously. Having your hazards on is a good start, but you should also have some type of hi-vis clothing to protect yourself. Consider getting reflective safety triangles to help warn drivers of your presence as they're approaching the recovery scene.
2. Make the recovery as easy as possible
If the car that's stuck in the snow is really buried in, you might want to spend some time shoveling snow away from the tires and from underneath the car. Putting sand or kitty litter under the tires will also help ease the strain on the recovery strap and make the pull a whole lot easier. If you have them, applying tire chains will add even more traction.
2. Secure the strap to the recovery vehicle
First, make sure the recovery strap you're using is rated high enough. A good rule of thumb is for the vehicle weight to be half the break strength of the recovery strap.
Next, attach the recovery strap to the rear of the towing vehicle, somewhere with plenty of structural support like a trailer hitch with steel loops for mounting a hook with a safety clip or a shackle. Anchor shackles are one of the best and safest ways to secure a recovery strap. Refer to your vehicle's owner's manual for guidance on safe recovery strap rigging.
Never attach the strap to a trailer hitch ball. This can cause bending and breaking which could result in serious injury.
3. Secure the strap to the stuck vehicle
This is where it can get tricky. If you're lucky enough to be pulling a vehicle with clearly visible tow hooks, secure the recovery strap to those. Many smaller vehicles and newer model cars don't have the best tow hooks, or they are often hidden.
Before resorting to hooking onto the frame, check the front bumper for a small square section of the plastic that's removable. Many newer vehicles have removable tow hooks that are stored with the car jack.
Never attach a recovery strap to the bumper, axle, suspension, or steering rods.
If possible, lay a tarp or some jackets on top of the recovery strap to slow the recoil of the strap if it were to break.
4. Reduce slack then pull slowly
Once the recovery strap is safely secured, the recovery vehicle should slowly pull forward to reduce strap slack and prevent snapping. Then, with drivers in both vehicles and no people near the strap, the recovery vehicle can start accelerating slowly and gradually. The vehicle being recovered should be in gear and once they're moving the driver should apply some gas and steer the vehicle out.
5. Inspect equipment and get home safe
Once the car is pulled out of the snow and back on drivable land, inspect your recovery strap and all hardware before heading home. Clean the strap when you get home and store it in a dry and cool place.
Why you need to use recovery straps
Make sure to use recovery straps for stuck vehicles and not tow straps. Recovery straps are designed to have more stretch than tow straps and this helps prevent the strap from snapping when the vehicle is being tugged on. Recovery straps also provide a more controlled pull compared to the tow straps. Without getting too scientific, the stored kinetic energy from the strap stretches then recoils back to its natural length to provide control and prevent the strap from snapping.
Learn more about the differences between recovery straps and tow straps.
Best Recovery Straps